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Gov. Ron DeSantis calls Merrick Garland memo on threats attempt to 'intimidate'

'It's to squelch dissent,' DeSantis says
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Posted at 11:23 PM, Oct 20, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's governor has called on the Justice Department to stand down as federal officials offer to help with threats made against school workers over masking policies.

At a Titusville news conference Wednesday, DeSantis, a Republican and frequent critic of President Joe Biden's administration, said the federal aid is unneeded and an attempt to "intimidate" some parents.

"It's to squelch dissent," DeSantis said. "It's to have them shut up and just take it, even when they strongly disagree with what may be happening with their kid."

His comments follow an Oct. 4 memorandum from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. In it, Garland said there's been a "disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence" against school workers. He lists a series of efforts to help, which included the creation of a task force to aid criminal prosecution.

"The Department is steadfast in its commitment to protect all people in the United States from violence, threats of violence and other forms of intimidation arid harassment," Garland said in the memo.

DeSantis said the state wouldn't be participating in anything outlined in Garland's memo. Anti-mask parents backed his position. Duval County mother Keisha King was among them.

"Now we're being looked at as domestic terrorists," King said. "And I find it utterly disgusting."

Meanwhile, school workers have started opening up about the threats. Brevard County school board member Jennifer Jenkins recently told her colleagues what she had experienced. During a school board meeting last week, Jenkins said she had dealt with stalkers, the brandishing of weapons outside her home and even false abuse claims about her daughter.

"I don't reject people coming here and speaking their voice. They do it all the time," she said. "That I have to take a (Department of Children and Families) investigator to play dates and go underneath her clothing and check for burn marks. That's what I'm against, which is a credible threat."

The Justice Department didn't immediately offer a response to the governor's comments but in the memo promised to act within 30 days. The window is quickly disappearing without much outward action to date.